Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Doughty Says He'll Talk to Erik Karlsson about Free Agency Tactics

With free agency less than two years away, Drew Doughty is already starting to play his cards, and he says he's eager to consult with fellow former Norris winner Erik Karlsson about the subject.

Here's what Doughty told Craig Custance of The Athletic about the subject:

“I know I’m going to talk to Karlsson back and forth, kind of see what money he’s looking for. I’ll kind of look at what money I’m looking for,” Doughty said. “I don’t know if he’s going to re-sign with Ottawa, I don’t know if I’ll re-sign with L.A. You just never know what’s going to happen.”

Doughty and Karlsson are set to headline a class that could also feature Oliver Ekman-Larrson, Ryan McDonagh, Tyler Myers and Ryan Ellis--if extensions don't get done.

It looks like Doughty is looking forward to testing the market and eager to keeping his options open. He even went so far as to say that he feels he and Karlsson are worth much more than the $9 million that P.K. Subban currently makes:

Translation: Don't expect a hometown discount for him to play in the L.A. It doesn't even sound likely that he'll end up there.

“Growing up, watching them every single time, it’s hard to say you’d never want to play for the Leafs,” Ontario native Doughty told Custance about the Leafs.

Doughty appears to be having a lot of fun with this. But it must be noted that he still toes the company line in pretty much each conversation about his pending free agency. Here more from the Custance Athletic piece.

“I love this organization. I love the players. That’s where I would really, really, really feel bad, if I left some of the players. I’ve done so much in this organization. I’m comfortable here. L.A. is going to be my No. 1 choice to re-sign here. But you never know what can happen, right?”

The summer of '19 is a long way off and Doughty will be 29 when it gets here. At just a shade past his prime how much will he get for a contract that takes him all the way up to age 37? Karlsson will also be 29--the pair have combined to win three of the last six Norris Trophies.

Stay tuned.

Krug Gets Crushed by Paquette and Then Fights with Vatrano

Is this a suspendable hit by Cedric Paquette on Torey Krug? Some seem to think so.

It's certainly a hit from behind and Paquette did have some time to slow up. Check out where he was when Krug had already had his back turned to him.

Here's another angle:

Paquette got two for roughing and two for boarding on the play. The roughing came from his skirmish with Frank Vatrano, who also picked up four penalty minutes when he went after Paquette in the name of justice. Moments later Krug scored on this beauty one-timer to give the Bruins a 3-0 lead which proved to be the game-winner in Boston's 3-2 win over the Bolts on Wednesday.

With the win the Bruins improve to 11-8-4 and slip into third place in the Atlantic, dropping the Red Wings down to fourth. It's pretty tight between three and five in the Atlantic so you might want to stay in touch on this race.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Frustrated Tortorella Not Going to Talk about Columbus Power Play Anymore

There are a lot of reasons that the Columbus Blue Jackets are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Sergei Bobrovsky's great goaltending is one, the awesomeness of the Zach Werenski/Seth Jones defensive pairing is another, an extremely deep and well balanced group of forwards is another.

The power play is not.

The Blue Jackets power play is by far the worst in the NHL and it cost them another shot at a victory tonight when the Jackets went 0 for 9 in a 3-1 loss to the Canadiens at Bell Centre in Montreal.

The loss drops the Jackets to 15-8-1, good for second in the tight Metropolitan Division.

According the Natural Stat Trick the Blue Jackets had nine scoring chances with the man advantage. The Blue Jackets have the NHL's lowest shooting percentage on the power play (6.9%), and the second-lowest CF/60 (85.16). That's doubly bad--Columbus isn't shooting the puck enough and when they do they don't score very much anyway. Making matters worse is the fact that the Jackets don't get on the power play all that much. They average 4:48 of power play time per 60 mins, the third-lowest rate in the NHL.

Columbus owns an NHL-worst 8.9% conversion rate on the power play and they have gone one for their last 23 over their last 10 games. Somehow, they've gone 6-3-1 in those ten games.

Things aren't so bad in Columbus, but they are bad enough that Tortorella has placed a moratorium on questions about his team's power play.

"This is my last night that I'm speaking on the power play, because I'm tired of talking about it" said Tortorella. "I'll leave it at that."

Before Tortorella ended the power play discussion, he did give a take.

"We had ten chances on the power play," said Tortorella. "We didn't score. ... Tonight's problem was that we didn't finish. We developed a lot of scoring chances on it."
Not much of a take but a take nonetheless. Last season the Blue Jackets power play was superb at times, but it sputtered and ended up finishing 12th in the NHL with a success rate of 19.9. They went 2 for 12 in the playoffs and lost in five games in the first round to the Penguins. Columbus looks like a potential Cup contender in a lot of ways this season, but if they can't find a way to score with the man advantage they won't have a shot at making a run.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Debrincat Records his first career Hat-Trick as Chicago Shellacks Ducks

19-year-old Alex Debrincat scored his first career hat-trick on Monday night to power the Chicago Blackhawks to a 7-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

The 5'7" rookie becomes the second-youngest Blackhawk to ever record a hat-trick. Jeremy Roenick was four days younger when he achieved the feat in 1989.

Here's all three goals in Streamables:




Debrincat has been enjoying a solid rookie season in Chicago. He's third among NHL rookies with 10 goals and sixth in points with 17.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Statisfaction 11.25: Thornton Cracks a Milestone While Pens Struggle Early

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Jumbo Cracks another Milestone

Never mind that last night's game-winning goal caromed off of Joe Thornton's skate in Vegas. Let's focus on the positives. Thornton, living legend that he is, passed Joe Sakic to move into 12th on the NHL's all-time assist list with # 1,016 and 1,017.

It has been a rough season for Thornton, who returned early from offseason knee surgery, but even at less than 100 percent he is still extremely vital to what the Sharks are trying to accomplish this season.

2. Pens Woes Coming Early

The Pittsburgh Penguins are having a lot of trouble pulling it together thus far, and they currently stand one point out of a wildcard in the Eastern Conference. Sidney Crosby's scoring slump was well documented earlier this season, but now it's time to look at this team's slow starts. The Penguins have given up more first period goals than any other team in the NHL, and they've scored the fourth-lowest total. All the early deficits have made it difficult for this team to accumulate points in the stacked Metropolitan Division.

3. Winnipeg's PP on fire

The Winnipeg Jets had five power play goals in ten October games and still managed to get out of the month 5-3-2. This month they have hit their stride, scoring 13 power play goals in 11 games and firing at 36.1 percent for the month. That's pretty big news for a team that had the 20th best power play in the NHL last season. They scored 47 power play goals all last season. Right now they are on pace for 67.

Patrik Laine leads the team with 6 power play goals, while Mark Schiefele and Blake Wheeler are tied for the lead in power play points with nine.

Here are the NHL's best power plays, in term of goals, for November.

4. Halak having a dud year for Isles

It's early but something appears to be not quite right with Jaroslav Halak in Brooklyn. He's the worst in the NHL at making low danger saves, and those softies are the ones that are killing his starts.

What's strange is that Halak ranks eleventh in High Danger Save Percentage at 82.86, per Corsica, while Thomas Greiss ranks 33rd with a 70.69.

The Islanders currently rank 22nd in save percentage at even strength at 91.65, per Natural Stat Trick.

5. Speaking of goalies, Sergei Bobrovsky is scorching-hot for the Jackets

The Russian has been on fire while spearheading Columbus' current six-game winning streak. Bobrovsky's .935 save percentage leads all goalies with ten or more appearances. He has allowed eight goals in seven games since Nov. 10th, and has not allowed more than two in any start since then while pitching two shutouts.

Friday, November 24, 2017

With Top Two Lines Temporarily Set, How Do Sharks Deploy Labanc and O'Regan?

Things are kind of sort of coming together for the San Jose Sharks' forward lines at the season's quarter turn, but there are still some pretty massive questions for the Sharks, even if the Sharks have found what they are looking for with Pavelski/Thornton/Meier as the top line and Couture/Hertl/Donskoi as the No.2 line.

The biggest question is what will these newly formed lines mean for the future of Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan?

It's not easy to imagine each player assuming and thriving in a bottom six role. Each is highly skilled and capable of eating power play minutes. Each is better suited for play in the offensive zone and, perhaps most important, you could say that each benefits from being sheltered with proven top line players, as most do.

Is there room for the type of hockey that O'Regan and Labanc play on the bottom six?

Here's a quick look at some of the possession numbers that the pair have produced in brief stints this season. Labanc's numbers are more revealing because he has been with the Sharks for all but two games, while O'Regan is a recent callup.

Labanc (via @NaturalStatTrick):

Above we see Labanc's numbers on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. Note that Labanc has had a positive impact on this line, with regard to possession and percentage of goals scored. Because we have some data, let's look at how Meier has done with the two Joes.

Meier w/ two Joes (via @NaturalStatTrick):

Okay, Pavelski/Thornton/Meier has been absolutely dominant in the last two games. But it's a really small sample size and we'll need more to look at. If this is what it takes to bring Meier to life, then so be it, but it does make it more difficult to place Labanc, who seems less suited than playing a role on a third line than Meier does.

One thing I've wondered about is how would O'Regan and Labanc look on the same line? That'd be a pretty skilled trio, no matter who formed the third wing, so it would be interesting. We've seen Labanc and O'Regan paired briefly, but it's not enough to give us any valuable information.

O'Regan's Short Stint (via @CorsicaHockey:

It's pretty hard to see Peter DeBoer settling for Labanc and O'Regan on the same line unless O'Regan proves he can win face-offs and both prove that they can play strong two-way hockey. This seems to be an issue with both at this phase of their young careers.

O'Regan is 1 for and 3 against at evens in two games; Labanc in 5 for and 7 against at evens thus far.

Those numbers aren't exactly confidence inspiring, and the Sharks rely on defense and goaltending more than any other team in the league right now, which means that Peter DeBoer won't be settling for a leaky third line that is fun to watch but not quite NHL ready anytime soon.

Not being a defensive liability at 5-on-5 takes time, and this is probably the key to more ice time for Labanc and especially O'Regan this season. They'll have to prove that they can be effective in all zones to have a valuable role, especially if Meier solidifies his top line role over the next few weeks.

We'll see about that, and we'll see what Labanc and O'Regan can produce, in the next few weeks. There are no free rides on a Peter DeBoer team, so it will be interesting to see if the Sharks' young blood can step up and be a valuable contributor on a team that needs just that.

The good news is this: The development of all three players is further along than it was at the beginning of the season. Yes, fans get impatient and always want more, but all three players are getting the chance to develop their games at the NHL level. That said, it would be nice to see the revolving door stop and let these players settle into roles on specific lines, which might help them gain some comfort on the ice.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Watch: Nobody Knew Jakub Vrana Scored, but He Did

Well, whaddya know? Nobody seemed to see it happen, but it's a goal.

Right up there where mama keeps the Gatorade.

It was Jakub Vrana's second of the game and sixth of the year.

Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up his 20th assist on the play, he joins Steven Stamkos, Johnny Gaudreau, Blake Wheeler, Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn in he 20 assist club.

Caps lead Ottawa 4-1 after two.

Watch: Zibanejad Beats Darling with 100 Foot Floater

This is not ideal for Scott Darling.

Mika Zibanejad, on the other hand, will take it.

It was his 11th of the season. Looks as good as a top shelf spin-o-rama wrister on the scoresheet.

Youth Getting a Chance as Sharks Search for Answers to Scoring Woes

With three games in the next four nights sandwiched around Thanksgiving, the Sharks will likely not have time to sit around and dwell on all the things they are thankful for this holiday season, but youth, surprising as it may seem, is one of them.

The Sharks are still a veteran team, mind you, but the influx of players that played important roles with the San Jose Barracuda last season has helped energize a veteran cast sorely in need of spunk. Both Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have admitted that they are playing at less than 100 percent, while veteran blue liner Paul Martin has been out of the lineup since October 12th. Brent Burns is in the throes of a massive slump. The combination of skating wounded and not skating at all has created a need for production from unlikely sources.

It hasn't always been pretty, but there are glimmers of hope. Kevin Labanc has made strides and at times he has looked like a bona fide top-line player. Naturally, it's hard to feel overly positive about a guy who hasn't scored a goal in his last 12 games and was sent to the AHL for a few games earlier in the month, but success doesn't always come overnight for the young.

The same could be said for Timo Meier. At times the 21-year-old looks incredible, at others he looks lost. Two goals in 18 games isn't something to write home about but Meier is getting valuable experience in San Jose and he'll see some top line minutes on Wednesday when the Sharks take on the Coyotes.

Danny O'Regan is the latest call up and he's notched points in each of his first two games of the season. It's been a long time coming for last season's AHL rookie of the year. He's a skilled, deceptive player that has scored at every level he's played at. Why not the NHL? O'Regan looked good on the Sharks top power play unit during Monday's shootout loss to the Ducks the Sharks certainly need his creativity there. Too many low to high passes have been leading to shots from the points for the Sharks. This is a club that needs some deception and some back door opportunities. Maybe O'Regan can help.

Expectations need to be tempered a bit with the three aforementioned players. We aren't talking about Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid. But if one of the three, or even better, two, can stick and become reliable scoring threats on the top six, the Sharks will be far better off in a few months than they are now.

Where they are now is at the bottom of the league in goals (46), 29th in goals per game (2.42) and 27th in power play (15.3%). So it can't get a whole lot worse. There's a flipside to that coin, however. It can get better. If the kids can assimilate while Pavelski, Thornton and Martin get healthy and Burns relocates his mojo (which may or may not be tied to Martin's absence), things will get better for the Sharks.

And we haven't even talked about the fantastic strides that Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan have made on the blue line. Or the magnificent play of Martin Jones in goal, and Joonas Donskoi an Logan Couture up front. Things haven't been all bad in San Jose this season, but it's clear that they'll need to get better to get in the playoff hunt.

And coach Peter DeBoer will need solidify them on a line so they can develop some comfort on the ice, something that hasn't happened yet in San Jose at this early juncture of the season.

Maybe the youth will play a role in that process. At the quarter turn we've seen promise, some growing pains and some question marks. In a few months, when we have more answers, we'll know more about what he Sharks have in Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan. For now Sharks fans will have to be content with the fact that each is gaining valuable experience while being counted on to play important minutes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Watch: Benn Brothers Violence Makes Jordie Smile

Brotherly love? Nothing like it.

Seriously, what is better than this? Two brothers taking the body on one another and starting a little skirmish while their parents look on.

That's what happened tonight in Dallas, as the Benn brothers locked horns and the every feisty Alexander Radulov couldn't help but get involved. There are several great parts of the above clip. First, when Jordie Benn breaks away and skates towards his bench, the smile on his face is priceless. Second, when the camera pans to the Benn's parents, Randy and Heather Benn, and they try to hide their immense pride. Maybe in mom's case it's a little bit of worry, but hey, boys will be boys.

Dallas (11-9-1) got the 3-1 win, and the Canadiens have now lost four in a row and fall to 8-12-2.

Jordie Benn was making his first trip back to Dallas to visit the arena where he went parts of six full seasons. He and brother Jamie were part of the same organization for seven years.

Jordie says that he and Jamie spend most of their dinner time on the night before the game with their parents arguing over which jersey they would were while watching the game. Ultimately they didn't wear any jerseys.

Here Jordie talked with Scott Burnside about the experience before the game.

Babcock Says Don't Expect a Lot of Matthews and Marner on Same Line

Don't expect Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner to become a fixture besides one another on the Maple Leafs top line. It's not in the cards says Toronto head coach Mike Babcock (see him talk about it in video above).

Babcock says he wants both players to drive a line and other than the occasional shake-up when the team isn't playing well, that's the way he's going to make up his roster.

Marner and Matthews have played 21:03 together at 5-on-5 this year, so it's probably not worth it to even look at their numbers--the sample size is simply too small. But in case you're curious, and you know you are, the pair have been on ice for 20 shot attempts for and 26 against for a shot share of 43.48. They have generated 12 scoring chances while giving up 10 against.

On Saturday in Montreal Matthews and Marner played six even strength minutes together and were a plus-2. They played another 3:22 together against Arizona on Monday.

"It's the responsibility of both guys to drive a line--that's their job here," said Babcock. "For us to be the best we can be they are both supposed to drive a line."

Statisfaction 11.21: Gaudreau Catching Fire, Power Play Shooters

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Johnny Gaudreau is having a monster first quarter

Johnny Hockey just hit the 20-game mark on a ten-point streak, and there are no signs of him slowing down (not his style).

The 24-year-old has 19 points during the current streak, which is a career best.

As the graphic below shows (from NaturalStatTrick), Gaudreau's numbers are up in key categories, and SIGNIFICANTLY:

Gaudreau's goals/60 rate is currently double that of what he managed last year (1.31 to .65) and his points per 60 rate, 3.49, compared to 2.24 last season.

The Flames have scored nine goals and allowed five at 5-on-5 with Gaudreau/Monahan/Ferland on the ice. Without that trio on the ice they have scored 13 and allowed 20.

Last but not least, Gaudreau is now just four points behind Steven Stamkos for the NHL lead in points.

2. Barzal rising up rookie race

Islanders center Mathew Barzal continues to terrorize opposing defenses, and he has been the NHL's best rookie in November, with 12 points.

3. Bobrovsky Having a Stellar Season in Columbus

Sergei Bobrovsky leads all goaltenders that have played in 10 games or more in Save Percentage (.933) and GAA (2.02). He also leads in another statistical category we like, called dSV%. It's the difference between actual save percentage and expected save percentage at 5-on-5. Bobrovsky leads all goalies with a 2.4, while Cory Schneider is in second at 1.99. Here are the top six in this category:

Expected save percentage takes into account shot volume faced, as well as shot location, including rush chances faced. For more about expected save percentage click here.

4. The Misery Continues for Brent Burns

Brent Burns had 15 shot attempts last night vs. the Ducks, but still no luck, meaning he's been held scoreless in 19 games now. It's certainly not due to a lack of effort. Burns is shooting more than ever for the Sharks, but he's not generating nearly as many Grade A chances. Maybe it's time to consult the playbook in San Jose? (below stats are 5-on-5 only)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why the Refs Got the Auston Matthews No-Goal Call Right

Auston Matthews had what would have been the game-tying goal disallowed during the Maple Leafs 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night at Air Canada Centre. The goal would have come late in the third period but officials on ice ruled that Zach Hyman interfered with the goaltender prior to Matthews goal.

The play completed at 16:10 of the third period and would have tied the game at 2-all.

Here is the play in question (go to 1:24 where the commentator declares that Hyman did push Raanta with his stick):

Many believe that the goal should count because Raanta had time to get to his post and did a decent job of squaring up against the puck before Matthews roofed his shot. But the fact that Raanta was able to make it over to the post and square up is not enough on this play.

He was still impaired, and that's what matters most.

Here's a look at just the funny business (and yes Hyman is getting moved by two Coyotes defenders, but I don't buy that their physicality magically made Hyman use his stick as cattle prod, and neither did the officials watching the replay.)

By pushing Raanta, Hyman denied him the ability to concentrate 100 percent on Matthews as he rounded the net. Part of his focus had to be on catching his balance and replanning his route across the crease. Instead of playing how he normally would play, Raanta had to alter his course and improvise. He used his raw ability to get the play covered as best he could, but because he was interfered with, Raanta was not able to make the type of push he normally does.

That's interference. And in my humble opinion, Hyman's foul merited a penalty.

Here's the rule for those who are interested, because you can't make this call without knowing the complete rule. So if you are ranting and raving on Twitter and you haven't looked at this yet, here's your chance to make yourself legit.

And here's why the rule applies in this case and the call is good.

Basically, goals will be disallowed if 1) attacker impairs goalie (this happened) and 2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact (this happened). So whether or not Matthews would have scored no matter what Raanta did or whether or not Raanta had a decent amount of time to get square to puck is irrelevant. The sequence that featured his post-to-post traverse was impaired by Hyman's deliberate contact with him.

I like the call because it asks for integrity from the attacking player. Don't deliberately contact a goalie because then he can't do his job.

What do you think?

If you want to know what Matthew's thinks, you probably have to have him on speed dial. Nary a comment to the media (same from Babcock, btw).

Gudas Suspended for 10 Games for Brutal Head Chop on Perreault

Flyers defenseman has forged an NHL career on the edge, and he'll pay for it again. The 27-year-old will sit for ten games after his latest transgression--a wicked guillotine chop to the head of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault.

The suspension is Gudas' third. He'll forfeit $408,537 in salary.

"With Perreault down on the ice in front of him, Gudas brings his stick down with both hands, slamming it forcefully into the back of Perreault's neck," the NHL said in a video. "While Gudas asserts that it was not intentional strike, he does acknowledge that he was aware of Perreault's presence."

Gudas has had a long history of suspensions and near misses over the course of his career. It's a shame because he's a really good player when he keeps it clean.

Here's Gudas first suspendable play (he got three games):

And here's his second (he got six, and this is kid's stuff compared to some of the stuff he's done that he hasn't gotten suspended for):

Here's one from last preseason, that Gudas got away with:

Hey, guess what? We found another one that resulted in an ejection, but no suspension:

And here's another that didn't even result in a penalty:

You're not going to believe it, but our YouTube search of "Gudas Dirty Hit" has brought us to another one:

Clearly Gudas does not have a lot of affection for his co-workers.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sharks Recall Danny O'Regan and He'll Play Tonight Vs. Bruins

The San Jose Sharks are looking for some help in the scoring department (their 44 goals ahead of Saturday play is worst in the NHL), and they've turned to the AHL for a look at promising center Danny O'Regan.

The 23-year-old was a BU standout that played with Jack Eichel at Boston University before turning pro. Last season O'Regan put up 58 points in 63 games for the Barracuda (he was the AHL Rookie of the Year) and thus far this season he's been a point per game player with 12 points in 12 games.

O'Regan is a shifty, creative playmaker that has a lot of poise and patience with the puck. He's got great vision and is not afraid to go to dirty areas of the ice. At 5'10, 185, O'Regan's size will be an issue until he proves it isn't.

"I think everyone is afraid of his size, but a lot of small guys are playing," Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic in an article that published today.

O'Regan will be in the lineup for the Sharks game against the Bruins at SAP Center, and it sounds like he'll be on the fourth line.

"He had a good training camp with us," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "Had a great season last year. ... It's his turn for a look and I think he deserves a chance to see what he can do."

That might not be the ideal role for a skilled player like O'Regan, but any NHL ice time has to be good NHL ice time at this point in his young career. O'Regan played in three games for the Sharks in a brief stint last season and scored his first NHL goal. He had five shots on goal in 46 shifts and scored on the power play in his third game, against Calgary on April 8.

Statisfaction 11.18: Barzal a Rising Force, Panarin Still Finding Game

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Barzal Bustin Out for Isles

Anybody who has watched the Islanders regularly this season has become familiar with the following: Mathew Barzal flying down the wing and creating chaos for opposing defenses. The kid plays an up-tempo game at breakneck speed, and his ability to control and distribute the puck is paying big dividends for the Islanders. He's been even more lethal of late, as he's gotten used to the NHL game and realized that he can burn these defenders in the same way that he burned defenders in juniors.

Also of note is the fact that Barzal has developed really good chemistry with Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd. The trio has been the Islanders best and seems to have solidified the second line, which is sure to create matchup dilemmas in the months to come as the Isles roll out Tavares/Lee/Bailey and Barzal/Ladd/Eberle as their top two lines.

Here's the lowdown on the line's possession numbers:

2. Panarin Still Finding his Form

It's definitely a work in progress for Artemi Panarin in Columbus this season. He scored his 4th of the season last night in Columbus in the Jacket's 2-0 win over the Rangers, but things just haven't clicked into place for Panarin (or the Jackets PP, which is last in the NHL at 10.5%).

Panarin is scoring goals at a .57 per 60 min clip this season, compared to .76 last season. He's getting his shots, at 7.2 per 60 mins, but the shooting percentage is down to 7.9%.

3. Brayden Schenn is living the life in St. Louis

Brayden Schenn has really benefited from the trade that sent him to St. Louis for Jori Lehtera in the offseason--and so have the Blues. Schenn has been an assist machine playing alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz (nice work if you can get it). Check out the difference. He's up to 2.73 assists per 60 this season, compared to 1.28 last season (all phases). Also of note is the fact that Schenn has already matched last season's even strength goal total of four.

4. Penguins PDO?

Strange, but true. The Penguins have the lowest 5-on-5 PDO in the NHL at .95. Last year they had the NHL's fourth-highest PDO at 1.012. Somehow, despite the struggles of Sidney Crosby (nine even-strength points in 21 games, just snapped 11-game goalless drought), the failing of Antti Niemi and the minus-20 at 5-on-5, the Pens are hanging in there at 11-7-3.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cam Atkinson Signs Seven-Year Deal to Stay with Columbus

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Cam Atkinson to a seven-year, $40.25 million deal on Thursday (full report from Aaron Portzline of The Athletic), ending contract speculation about the team's leading scorer in the 2016-17 season. Atkinson was in a contract year, but now he's a part of the Blue Jackets' long-term future at a price tag that comes in a little lower than most 34-goal scorers would get.

The 28-year-old is now locked up through the 2024-25 season at a very manageable cap hit, which means that the club and GM Jarmo Kekalainen can get to work on other pressing matters. Artemi Panarin and Zach Werenski will need new deals at the end of next season, while Jack Johnson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara, Matt Calvert and Boone Jenner will all need new deals this summer.

Getting Atkinson, who has scored 104 goals since the beginning of 2013-14 and 34 last season, locked up on a team-friendly deal will make things a lot easier on the Columbus brain trust this summer and beyond. This looks like a great deal, provided that Atkinson keeps putting up 20 to 30 goals for at least the first half of the term.

Nylander Breaks Scoreless Tie to Propel Leafs to Victory over Devils in OT

Life without Auston Matthews has proven to be a character building affair for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And William Nylander is officially off the schneid.

The team won its fourth straight without their star center in the lineup on Thursday, notching a hard-fought overtime win thanks to this late seeing-eye beauty by William Nylander at 4:57 of overtime.

"I don't know," said Nylander of the goal. "Just got it to the net."

The Leafs improve to 13-7-0 with the win, while New Jersey drops to 11-4-3.

Kamenev Suffers Broken Arm in First Game with Avs

Vladislav Kamenev's first game with the Colorado Avalanche did not go well. The 21-year-old made his season debut tonight at Pepsi Center in Denver, and he was sent to the sidelines with a broken arm after this massive hit from Brooks Orpik.

He had 4:06 of ice time before the injury. Orpik was not penalized for the hit.

Gudas Ejected for Wicked Slash after Refs Watch Replay

Radko Gudas could be in trouble with the NHL again.

The always ornery Flyer defenseman got carried away at the end of a scrum and took a whack at the head of Mathieu Perreault.

Here's the video:

It was an interesting process that the refs took to make the call. Originally they had matching minors for both players, but after a few moments, some looks at the replays, and a brief conference, they tagged Gudas with a major for slashing and a game misconduct.

Much is currently being made of the fact that the referees may or may not have been influenced by the reaction of the crowd to the video replay, but judging from the severity of Gudas' slash and how it all went down, the real injustice would have been if Gudas were allowed to continue to play in this game.

Next we'll wait and see how the NHL's Department of Player Safety views this dangerous play by Gudas. He has been suspended twice already in his career, and on several other occasions narrowly avoided suspensions. Could this be No.3?

Here's the full look at the play in real time, from another angle:

Statisfaction 11.16: Best 5-on-5 Teams

Statisfaction is your daily smorgasbord of NHL numbers. Fancy stats, counting numbers, streaks, and more. Enjoy.

1. Tampa's the NHL's Best 5-on-5 Team (surprise):

We compiled some stats on 5-on-5, looking specifically at the difference between goals for and goals against per 60 minutes. Of course there are a lot of other metrics (possession and otherwise) that we could look at, but we wanted to look at the purest metric of them all in this case. As it turns out the Lightning are the best, with a .89 differential between goals for and goals allowed. The Blue Jackets were No.2 on the list, thanks largely to the work of their defense and Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob has a .928 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA--that helps. Here are the top seven teams, rankied by difference between goals for and goals allowed at 5-on-5, per 60 mins.

2. Jackets Power Play is Bottom Barrel

It's a good things the Blue Jackets have been doing so well at 5-on-5 because their power play has been absolutely abysmal. The Blue Jackets are currently the only team whose power play is clicking at less than 10 percent this season.

The have managed five power play goals and allowed two shorties to make matters worse.

3. McDavid with Draisaitl, McDavid without Draisaitl

Thanks to NaturalStatTrick, we can now know exactly what Connor McDavid has been doing on ice with and without Leon Draisaitl. The results seem to prove that the scoring chances come whether these two are together or not. So why not split them up most of the time and use them only for matchups and variety?

Probably better to ask Todd McLellan that one.

4. Labanc, Thornton and Pavelski: A failed line or worth another shot?

kevin Labanc has had a bit of a rough ride this season and the 21-year-old was even sent down to the AHL for a few games before being recalled before last Sunday's game against Los Angeles. Labanc spent most of the young season on a line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but the line was pretty bad defensively and ended up giving up more than it got. Small sample size though. WE took a look at the numbers of the Sharks with and without the trio on the ice and it shows that San Jose's offense is aided quite a bit when all three are on together. Perhaps Peter DeBoer will want to use this line situationally--but definitely not to protect a lead.

5. The best pairing in hockey?

It's always a tough question. There are a lot of great blue line pairings in the NHL right now, and many of them help their teams in different ways (some by pushing the offense, some by being downright stingy), but for our money, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are the best defensive tandem in the NHL right now).

The pair have been on ice for 15 goals for and just eight against while putting up the NHL's sixth-best CF% of 57.4 percent at 5-on-5. They have already logged 309 5-on-5 minutes as a tandem, more than any other pair in the NHL.

Also Doug Hamilton and Mark Giordano in Calgary and how about Charlie McaVoy and Zdeno Chara? That's a fun pair to watch and they've been very effective in Boston this season. Here are the top 10 possession pairs, 200 mins minumum ice time, through Nov. 15.

Travis Zajac Set to Return for Devils

The New Jersey Devils will get a key offensive player back on Thursday night when they meet the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Center.

Center Travis Zajac will rejoin the club after missing the first 17 games of the season due to offseason pectoral surgery.

Zajac will center Jesper Bratt and Drew Stafford.

The 32-year-old Winnipeg native has put up at least 40 points in three of the last seasons for the Devils. It will be very interesting how well he plays with the revamped, speedier Devils that we are seeing this season. New Jersey currently sits atop the Metropolitan Division at 11-4-2.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Relief on the Way for Vegas Goaltending? Maybe

Just when the Vegas Golden Knights think things can't get any worse, they do. The team's fifth different goaltender saw action on Tuesday night in Edmonton as Maxim Lagace was injured and pulled during Edmonton's 8-2 blowout of the Golden Knights at Rogers Place. That opened the door for 19-year-old Dylan Ferguson to finish the game and it left questions marks heading into Wednesday's practice day.

You know you want to know more about Vegas' seventh-round pick in last June's NHL Entry Draft (he hasn't even collected his first NHL paycheque), so click over to this CBC piece to read about the British Columbia native.

Here's a snippet, if you haven't clicked yet:

When the team isn't on the road, Ferguson is living at the Red Rock Casino, about 25 kilometres from the Golden Knights' home at T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas strip. "It's pretty nice, except I can't really do anything," the teen said with a smile. "I'm just all denned up in my room and hibernating up there all day and going to practice."

But it appears that things are starting to turn in Vegas, and it's not clear if Ferguson is going to get his first NHL start in his home province on Thursday. Malcolm Subban was back in net, as was Lagace, and the two joined Ferguson for practice today.

When asked if Subban might be fit enough to play, the typically noncommital coach Gerard Gallant was as typically noncommital as ever. "I'm not in charge of that stuff," he said.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who suffered a concussion in his fourth game, has been on the ice a bit, but not at practice. He's still listed as day-to-day.

Nobody has anything new on Dansk either. At least that's what Gallant is going with:

The 10-6-1 Golden Knights will be in Vancouver on Thursday. They have gone 4-5-1 in their last ten with a hodge podge of goalies.

Watch: Artem Anisimov Scores First Career Hat Trick

The Chicago Blackhawks scored six goals in the final 20:52 and three of them went to Artem Anisimov.

The Russian recorded his first career hattie as the Blackhawks notched a big win to stop the Rangers six-game winning streak at United Center on Wednesday night.

It was the 20th hat-trick in the NHL this season.
The 20-year-old now has 137 NHL goals. The Rangers and the Blackhawks now have identical records of 9-8-2.

Watch: Versteeg Blows Tire and Dylan Larkin Dazzles with Shorty

Wow. Dylan Larkin can stop on a dime, and when you are as fast as he is, stopping on a dime can turn the world on its ear. T.J. Brodie's reaction pretty much says it all on this play.

Flames, Oilers Come to Blows and Brawl in Blowout

Moral of the story? You lose 8-2 and you end up fighting mad.

Oh, and old-time hockey isn't dead... yet.

It was 6-2 in the third when all this fun extracurricular activity occurred in Detroit during the Red Wings 8-2 win over Calgary. Luke Witkowski was being escorted off the ice but a gentle poke by Matthew Tkachuk lured him back to the playing surface, where a melee quickly ensued.

Here's a longer look at what happened:

And some commentary from Twitterverse:

Much penalties were handed out and Andreas Athanasiou and Luke Glendening connected on power play goals to salt away the victory for Detroit.

Anthony Mantha and Athanasiou each scored a pair and the Wings went 4-6 on the power play to improve to 9-8-2. The Flames were without Mike Smith and suffered because of it. Eddie Lack only stopped 10 of 15 shots before being pulled for Jon Gilles at 24:27.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Oilers Swap Cammalleri for Jokinen in Deal with Kings

The Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings swapped free agent signees to fill perceived needs in their roster on Tuesday.

Desperate for secondary scoring the Oilers have acquired 35-year-old Mike Cammalleri to bolster their bottom six and power play.

The two-time 30-goal scorer has not scored over twenty since 2014-15, but he's a proven sniper with a career shooting percentage of 12.3%.

The reason that the Kings made the deal for 34-year-old Jussi Jokinen was less obvious. Cammalleri had seven points in 15 games and was a plus-1, so he wasn't exactly a bust at a $1 million cap hit. Jokinen has struggled to get puck luck in Edmonton, but he's been a positive possession player (his CF% is 58.27) who has one of the highest Expected Goals percentage in the NHL (72.97%), per Corsica. The Finn has put up at least 40 points in three of his last four NHL seasons, so it's likely that his production will pick up in Los Angeles. He's put up just one point and a minus-3 in 14 games for the Oilers.

L.A. Kings Insider thinks that the Kings must be searching for a more typical bottom six forward that possesses better defensive awareness and some more physicality. Jokinen has been that player for most of his career, but it's fair to wonder if he can even be effective in that role given what he's produced in Edmonton thus far.

Cammalleri could help the Oilers power play, but it has been a while since he has made a significant impact on his team's power play. If he doesn't the Oilers will be stuck with a forward who is a negative possession player that is more of a defensive liability than Jokinen.

Carey Price Is Injured Again, but Says He Won't Be Out Long

Carey Price revealed that he injured himself prior to the Canadiens' game against the Minnesota Wild on November 2; since then he's been struggling with an injury, his recovery stagnant.

"I'm just going to make sure I take my time with it and it won't be very long," said Price of the mystery injury.

Price said he decided to take himself off the ice for a few days to give himself time to reassess. He has no timeline for a return (he did have one initially but things have not progressed as planned).

"Just wasn't getting better," he said. "It was getting stagnant so I just decided to give it a rest for a couple of days."

Price has struggled, even before the injury. He is 3-7-1 with a 3.77 GAA in 11 starts this season. He has allowed four or more goals in six of his last seven starts.

It is noteworthy that Price played a full game before disclosing his injury, something that his General Manager talked about today. “I was not aware he got hurt in the warm up,” Marc Bergevin said on Tuesday. “I found out after the fact. I didn’t know until the next day.”

Eric Engels of SportsNet was at the game in question and gave this critical take of the situation.

Rookie Charlie Lindgren has been keeping the Canadiens in the mix by playing stellar in his elevated role. He has gone 3-1-1 in five starts and possesses a .957 save percentage.

It's hard to try and read between the lines of Price's comments, but the fact that he's stopped skating for a few days can't be good for the short-term. The last time Price was seriously injured, he ended up never returning after leaving the lineup. He was injured in November 25th of 2015 and made repeated attempts to return but ended up shutting down his season as the Habs were floundering and out of the playoff hunt.

Montreal plucked struggling goaltender Antti Niemi off of waivers from the Panthers to shore up their depth at the position. Niemi has been horrible this season, putting up a 7.50 GAA in three starts with the Penguins before being let go. He was picked up by Florida and played two games in relief before being waived. The 34-year-old is a former Cup winner that has 428 games of NHL experience and 227 wins.

Werenski's OT Winner Defeats Habs

The Columbus Blue Jackets won a good back-and-forth battle with Montreal, but not before the Habs picked up a point thanks to a game-tying goal by Paul Byron at 12:14 of the third.

Columbus has now won two in a row, and they have gone 6-1 in games that have been tied after regulation. Columbus has won four games in overtime and two in a shootout.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sharks Report: Joe Thornton May Never Be at 100 Percent

It was a good weekend for the San Jose Sharks. The team has certainly had its share of struggles this season, but with solid goaltending, stingy defense and some decent depth, the Sharks managed to sweep home and away games against the Canucks and Kings to improve to 10-6-0 on the season, which is good for third in the Pacific Divison.

Are they comfortably in playoff position after nearly 20 percent of the regular season? Absolutely not. Are there deficiencies across the lineup? Absolutely. But guided by veteran presence and a whole lot of grit, the Sharks look like a team that will hang around all season and likely lock up a playoff spot.

But that doesn't mean that this team is without issues. And the biggest one this week appears to be the health of Joe Thornton. Thornton logged 15:43 of ice time against the Lightning on Wednesday and then was down even further, to 14:00 in Saturday's victory over the Canucks.

When pressed on the issue, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was quick to explain his process, and he was surprisingly open.

"If I was to say he's 100 percent healthy it wouldn't be truthful," DeBoer said. "So, you know, he's not. But he's good enough to help us out there."

DeBoer says Thornton's ice time was partly due to circumstance, due to the fact that the Sharks had a lot of penalties to kill, and he liked the jam of his fourth line, so he kept them on the ice for some extra shifts.

"It wasn't anything alarming," DeBoer said.

Thornton has 10 points in 16 games, including four on the power play, and DeBoer says that Thornton is still vital to his team's offense, no matter what percent health his surgically repaired left knee is at right now.

"Let's be honest, he's a great player. At 80 percent he can still help us. And he knows that. If he gets to a point where he can't help us I'm comfortable that he's smart enough to say 'Hey I can't go tonight.'"

He elaborated further, when asked if Thornton was 100 percent to start the season. "No, he wasn't 100 percent," he said. Then he was asked if Thornton would ever be 100 percent. "I don't know, that's a good question," DeBoer said, adding: "This guy, he is pushing the envelope, and we're dealing with a little bit of that, and that's the greatness of him."

It sounds good in theory, Thornton being this wounded Yeti on skates that is somehow impervious to the pain. You could certainly romanticize it, especially when his production isn't suffering all that much at the moment. But the reality is that Thornton is 38 and playing at less than 100 percent could lead to future injuries or future diminished play. Thornton's ice time, and the level of his play, will need to be closely monitored as the season progresses. It'd be better for him to take a few weeks in December than to be forced out of the lineup in March when the team will need him to lead.

Thornton's 5-on-5 Corsi Percentage is as low as it has been in years at 52.96, but it's not alarmingly low. What is slightly alarming is that when Thornton is on ice at 5-on-5 the Sharks are getting less than 50 percent of scoring chances (48.73)--the Sharks have generated at least 53.94 percent of scoring chances with Thornton on the ice in every season since 2010-11, so this is something new.

This is a story that we will likely be visiting through the winter. Let's hope Thornton gets the rest he needs and is able to stay healthy.

Labanc Back in the Bigs

It was a short two-game stint in the AHL for Kevin Labanc. The 21-year-old scored a goal and added three assists for the Barracuda to earn a swift call up to the Sharks. He was in uniform for the Sharks 2-1 win at Staples Center on Sunday, playing with Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker. It was only a matter of time for Labanc, who is tied for sixth on the club in points with seven at the moment. San Jose has the NHL's fourth-lowest goal total (44), and the second-lowest 5-on-5 total (24). This team badly needs what a shifty sniper like Labanc can bring.

"He went down, he played great," said DeBoer. "He was the best player on the ice down there according to reports. Let's be honest. He's got seven points. ... He creates offense every night. The guys we're deciding on pulling in or out aren't doing that. It's hard to keep a guy like that out of the lineup when you are looking for offense."

Labanc was a part of a strange power play with the Barracuda on Saturday. Head coach Roy Sommer used five forwards on the top unit. They went 0 for 5, but it was something to see.

Sharks Goaltending Duo Standing Tall

How good have the Sharks been between the pipes? Very.

Aaron Dell and Martin Jones rank No.1 and No.2 in the NHL among goalies that have played in at least six games. Dell is 2-2 with a 1.94 GAA and a .934 Save Percentage; Jones is 8-4-0 with a 2.12 and a .925 save percentage.

Each has one shutout.

The Sharks goalies have combined for a .927 save percentage while shorthanded--that's good for second in the NHL this season.